Your senses are your first – and best – diagnostic tools. You can see, taste, smell, and feel water quality issues.

But how can you properly diagnose your water quality, so you know the next steps to take? Have you had your water tested by a water treatment professional or an E.P.A. certified lab?

Water spots on shower doors, glassware and dishes are caused by hard water that is present in most water supplies. If your water is red, orange, yellow, brown or cloudy, this can signal iron, rust or other sediments in your tap water, water main or household plumbing.

Odors can be from chlorine, nuisance bacteria or hydrogen sulfide in your water supply.

Primary signs of water issues include:

  • Scale deposits – spotty glassware, dishes and shower doors.
  • Staining – on plumbing fixtures, appliances and laundry.
  • Bad taste and smell – chlorine, rotten egg odor or earthy smell or taste.
  • Cloudiness and discoloration – in ice cubes or drinking water.

Foul-smelling or bad-tasting water are signs of impurities. Here are common water odor or taste problems you might encounter:

  • A rotten-egg or sulfur smell or taste suggests the presence of hydrogen sulfide. This is often caused by a type of bacteria in the water. Sulfates can also cause the water to taste salty.

Investigate further to pinpoint the source, such as bacteria growing in drains, water heaters, wells, or on the inside of pipes.

  • Musty, earthy odors and tastes might signal dissolved solids. Such aromas and tastes might be caused by decaying organic matter in the plumbing, or even the source water itself.
  • Chlorine is present for disinfection to make water safer to drink and originates during the normal chlorination treatment process. However, it gives off a smell and taste that many do not find appealing.
  • Metallic smell and taste might be a sign of mercury, lead, copper, arsenic, iron, manganese or zinc. These chemicals might come from your source or the pipes themselves.

Your senses might be the first diagnostic tool in discovering water quality issues, but it is always best to have your water tested by a professional.

Chris Lane is owner of Culligan Water Conditioning of the Low Country, serving Beaufort, Jasper and Hampton counties.